Professional wrestling has always been about the constant struggle between good guys and bad guys. Just like in the comic books or action-packed superhero television shows, there’s the villainous heel attempting to pull one over on the fan favorite do-gooder. The funny thing is that art doesn’t always imitate real life. The people for whom you might be rooting, and those you might boo in the ring might not be the same person they are outside of the ring.
Fans are often excited about the opportunity to get a picture taken with some of their favorite wrestlers – both faces and heels. The stories that are often shared in the internet wrestling community can vary in surprising ways. Some fans often say that someone who has portrayed a babyface can be rude in person and act indifferently towards faithful fans. Then there are heels who actually show they aren’t quite the exact person we see on television. In fact, some even take the time to answer questions and chat about various topics – if time permits them to do so. There are also wrestlers who were once considered jerks and then turn things around as they got older and wiser.
Through the decades of professional wrestling, fans have discovered that the person seen in the ring and on television isn’t quite the person they could meet outside of an event. The following are the top 10 wrestlers who are jerks in real life and the top 10 who are genuinely nice to their fans, and human beings in general.
20 Jerk – New Jack
Calling New Jack a “jerk” might seem like an understatement for the type of person he truly is. In fact, he’s probably been called worse things by promoters and wrestlers for various independent promotions around the world. The former ECW wrestler once decided to beat up on a much older opponent, Gypsy Joe, during a 2003 match for “not selling the moves.” One year later, he attacked a wrestler in the middle of a match with a weapon he had hidden on him.
There are several similar stories where he would show no remorse for the violent tendencies that blurred the lines between hardcore wrestling and assault. Let’s not forget the Mass Transit Incident where he beat up a very young wrestler to the point where he had to be rushed to a medical center.
19 Sweetheart – Titus O’Neil
Titus O’Neil might be worth the “millions of dollars” that he once pursused as part of The Prime Time Players. He’s certainly using his fame in a positive way to be a good role model for his two sons. His passion for being a positive influence on his children has been very well documented through a fatherhood campaign he did with the WWE, but he’s also done great things outside of his family and the WWE.
O’Neil has taken a number of homeless people out to dinner with the family on multiple occasions. He helped pay for one couple’s meal at a San Diego restaurant, only to learn that they didn’t feel welcomed. O’Neil would then return with a larger group of homeless people for what he called a “family dinner.”
18 Jerk – John “Bradshaw” Layfield
Maybe this one doesn’t come off as too much of a surprise. John “Bradshaw” Layfield was after all, a pretty successful heel during the Ruthless Aggression era. There’s a reason he had a long run as the WWE Champion on SmackDown. But there have been a number of stories about how people view JBL outside of his wrestling character. In fact, he’s built up a reputation for being a bully behind the scenes.
Fans saw him legitimately attack the Blue Meanie during the WWE’s One Night Stand pay-per-view in 2005. But he also admits to the claims of hazing The Miz when he first came to the WWE. This included kicking the former reality-television star out of the locker room. JBL doesn’t seem ashamed of the stories that have circulated about him.
17 Sweetheart – Mark Henry
The world of wrestling is filled with plenty of athletes who are larger than life. Mark Henry is one of those men who could intimidate fans just by walking to the ring. The former strongman was certainly someone who looked like he was someone you didn’t want to anger. However, many wrestling fans have commented online about how the World’s Strongest Man is almost like the world’s strongest teddy bear.
A perfect example of how good-natured Henry is outside of the ring is the poem that he wrote about Owen Hart’s tragic in-ring death in 1999. Like many within the wrestling community, Henry took to pen and paper about how “the burn overwhelmed me. My heart is heavy...” This sort of fact might come as a surprise, but it shows another side of the 400-pound powerhouse.
16 Jerk – Batista
There are some positive and negative stories about Batista meeting fans outside of WWE events. He was often yelling at fans when he was a heel during his most recent run in the WWE, but fans have other reasons to consider him a jerk. WWE had released a book entitled Batista Unleashed in 2007 and it was from the point of view of the Animal. In it, he called out specific people in the wrestling business he didn’t like (i.e. Bubba Ray Dudley).
But near the end of the book, Batista spoke about his relationship with fellow WWE superstar Melina. This was apparently taking place while he was still married and his wife was battling cancer. Wrestling fans can forgive a lot of things, but cheating on an ill spouse doesn’t usually go over very well.
15 Sweetheart – Bray Wyatt
Bray Wyatt comes across as a very eerie and creepy superstar in the WWE. He’s become a very popular member of the WWE roster based on how different he is. His unique charisma has led to him developing a following of his own and it includes a legion of loyal fans. One fan took to social media to write about how Wyatt has been an inspiration to help him get through tough personal times dealing with Asperger’s Syndrome. He said that Wyatt’s promos have truly spoken to him through times he thought about taking his own life. Wyatt took notice and wrote a message back to him. “Life, is our greatest gift. Keep your head up, you are never alone.” It was a moving gesture that the fan appreciated and other fans also noticed.
14 Jerk – Bubba Ray Dudley
Bubba Ray Dudley has a very lengthy and successful career in the world of wrestling that saw him compete in every major promotion in the world. Whether he was a singles star and won championship gold in TNA or was in a tag team with D-Von for multiple championships, Bubba Ray established himself everywhere he went. However, for a good portion of his career, he was considered a reckless bully.
Several wrestlers have made comments about how they suffered injuries from matches with Bubba Ray. Some of the names that fans have learned about include some lower-card wrestlers like Rene Dupree and Christopher Nowinski. There have also been some complaints from established veterans like Randy Orton. Bubba Ray has also been known to be negative around fans who want autographs or posed pictures.
13 Sweetheart – Dean Ambrose
Wrestling fans might have a hard time associating the word “sweetheart” with Dean Ambrose. For several years before coming to the WWE, he was an aggressive wrestler known as Jon Moxley who left his mark throughout the United States. He’s toned down his style overall for the PG-friendly audience, but he’s still comes across as the Lunatic Fringe.
However, it’s funny how his current girlfriend Renee Young has been able to shed some light on how “nice” of a person Ambrose is behind the scenes. During an interview a few years ago, Young used the word “adorable” to describe her boyfriend, although she admitted she can’t go into too many details. That’s likely in an effort to not upset Ambrose or to help him maintain his hardcore image.
12 Jerk – Kevin Nash
Kevin Nash has developed quite the reputation among wrestling fans. He’s often been viewed as someone who abused his powers while wrestling for WCW. But even in retirement, Nash has come across as a jerk who likes to get people riled up. In 2014, Nash made a statement that claimed The Rock was not only a jerk, but Nash hinted that the People’s Champion was homosexual.
This wasn’t the first time his comments upset fans. In a 2012 statement, Nash said that wrestlers like Eddie Guerrero might have been great technical wrestlers, but lacked big in-ring personalities. He compared putting smaller wrestlers like them as world champions to putting someone not attractive as the star of a film.
11 Sweetheart – Daniel Bryan
There’s something to be said about a wrestler being able to portray an honest character in the ring. Daniel Bryan always seemed to be a genuine WWE superstar that didn’t try to be something he wasn’t. That’s one thing that Triple H even said was part of why Bryan was such a popular WWE superstar leading up to WrestleMania XXX. He’s also been sincere about how blessed he felt he was in his career.
Bryan usually is a positive guy with fans who approach him for autographs and picture opportunities. He’s also someone who acts as himself during a number of interviews he’s done to help promote WWE events. He’s always had that kind of demeanor even before coming to the WWE. Fans who watched Roadside Diaries have seen how well Bryan interacted with others while he competed on the independent circuit.
10 Jerk – Randy Orton
Randy Orton might be married with children, which shows that he has matured after years, but when he was younger, Orton definitely had some problems with attitude. Part of that can be accredited to being raised as a third-generation wrestler who had the looks coming into the WWE. His family connections led to him getting an opportunity with the WWE. But his attitude got him in trouble with officials, especially how he acted around female talents.
He apparently didn’t like how WWE diva Rochelle Loewen didn’t recognize him and she revealed in 2005 how he dumped a lot of products into her bag in the women’s locker room. Even before that, Orton went AWOL while serving with the U.S. Marine Corps in 1999 that led to a dishonorable discharge. The news came up in 2012 when he was originally planned for a sequel of The Marine.
9 Sweetheart – Rob Van Dam
Many wrestlers seem to be laid back and approachable. Rob Van Dam is one of those superstars who seems to enjoy taking the time to talk with the fans. It probably isn’t too much of a surprise considering that RVD seems to have that demeanor of someone who is truly enjoying his life. Fans have found that he is very approachable not only at wrestling venues, but also at airports or other local places.
During an interview with BBC before a 2007 show in Birmingham, RVD said that meeting fans is better than actually performing in the ring. RVD also seems to be a fan himself as he enjoys going to different stands at wrestling conventions. Fans can truly appreciate someone who can be found standing in line with the rest of them.
8 Jerk – Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar was one of the biggest stars of professional wrestling after debuting on the scene in 2002. He was a former collegiate heavyweight champion who was booked strong through his first few years with the company. He was easily a genetic freak that was able to transition successfully into the world of mixed martial arts. He upset UFC fans with his antics and laughing at his opponent’s face after a fight.
During his MMA career, Lesnar has also rubbed some people the wrong way. During an interview with Jonathan Snowden in 2011, Lesnar barely answered questions and seemed to be extremely introverted. Snowden posted a transcript of an interview that showed a lot of questions being answered with “next question” or “none of your business.” Lesnar seems to enjoy being the bad guy, which makes him come across as a jerk.
7 Sweetheart – Rey Mysterio
This one can’t be too much of a surprise. Rey Mysterio has often been found interacting with younger fans who sit at ringside of wrestling events. WWE television often showed him exchanging words with children, especially those who also wore a Mysterio mask. He admits it wasn’t the original plan to do it every show, but he did it once and the WWE officials asked him to keep doing it.
Both the WWE and Mysterio saw the excitement fans had being able to share that moment. Outside of the ring, Mysterio has shown he is the type of wrestler who has always shown fans he’s approachable. Not only does he pose for pictures; he has even had someone take photos of him with fans on his phone.
6 Jerk – Triple H
Sometimes, playing the game of professional wrestling means doing whatever is possible to get a favorable push. In many ways, Triple H is considered someone who set himself up to receive benefits from marrying the boss’s daughter. This has led to Triple H becoming one of the most decorated superstars in WWE history, but that didn’t mean he had to upset a number of coworkers in the process.
Chyna found herself being treated poorly after she found Triple H cheating on her with Stephanie McMahon. But during his rise up the WWE ladder, there were a number of wrestlers that he buried in the process. Triple H didn’t let others get above him during his run at the top of RAW during the original brand split – including RVD, Booker T and Chris Jericho, to name a few.
5 Sweetheart – Sting
If anyone can attest to the type of person Sting has been in the wrestling industry, it would be the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. During an episode of his WOOOOO Nation podcast, Flair spoke about how Sting is one of the nicest people in professional wrestling. In fact, Flair said that he and Ricky Steamboat are two people who are way too nice to even be in the wrestling business. Wrestling fans would agree with Flair.
Message boards are filled with a lot of compliments for the Icon. Even when Sting was a young star through the National Wrestling Alliance before WCW formed, he was down to earth as people approached him. That nature has only improved with age and his becoming more serious about his Christian faith.
4 Jerk – CM Punk
While there are some fans who have had a positive experience meeting CM Punk – as long as they are polite – there are several stories where people have called him a jerk. Part of it seems to be that he tells fans to leave him alone at airports, but Punk has also developed a reputation as a jerk among his coworkers in the WWE.
Fans can often find stories of how he was held down and put in the doghouse multiple times over his ego. Who can forget the infamous “pipe bomb” promo from 2011? Or the way he exited the WWE? Punk’s frustration with his standing in the company does lead to him coming across as a jerk that led to many likely feeling happy that he left the WWE.
3 Sweetheart – Shawn Michaels
When Shawn Michaels rose to fame before his untimely retirement in the Attitude Era, he was considered a jerk by his colleagues. Michaels admits it in his book Wrestling for My Life that he wasn’t always a good person towards his coworkers and to his fans. He credits part of that to his substance abuse and his anger towards injuries forcing him out of wrestling. Fortunately, he would find faith and become a born-again Christian, which turned it all around.
Since his return in 2002, he’s become a different person. Michaels has shown that he’s goofy like many fans. He has shown appreciation for people who have supported him. During recent appearances, he’s been nothing short of polite and approachable. While his wrestling days are done, Michaels said meeting fans is a more intimate way of interacting with fans without “getting the tar beat out of me.”
2 Jerk – Hulk Hogan
During the 1980s and a good portion of the 1990s, Hulk Hogan was the biggest icon in professional wrestling. Whether he was slamming Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III or forming the New World Order in WCW, Hogan was a beloved figure in wrestling. But even as one of the most requested celebrities in Make-A-Wish history, he wasn’t exactly a perfect role model.
In July 2015, audio from a previously released tape was released. It included Hogan going on a racial tirade regarding someone who was dating his daughter Brooke. The news led to him being fired by the WWE and the loss of some endorsement deals he had at the time. Despite the damage to his public image, Hogan was awarded a monetary judgement (about $140 million total) in a case against Gawker Media – who were partly to blame for the release of the tape and his racial rant.
1 Sweetheart – John Cena
John Cena might not be a perfect person outside of the wrestling ring, but he has been a positive role model WWE has pushed for their PG-friendly audience. Cena’s character in the ring has allowed him to be one of the most requested people for visits with the Make-A-Wish foundation. Part of that is how he interacts with people outside of the ring. He’s even had fun with the infamous “Unexpected John Cena” prank for a commercial shoot.
But in addition to meeting with sick fans, he’s brought fans into the ring during WWE events to salute them for their fight against conditions like cancer. Maybe he has had his moments involving his past romantic relationships, but no one has ever forced Cena to grant hundreds of Make-A-Wish requests, more than anyone else in the foundation’s history.